Most clueless remark of them all: In fairness to Slate's Mary Harris and the New York Times' Mara Gay, neither one is an education specialist.
This may explain the 19-minute conversation they recorded for Slate last week.
The conversation concerned the operation of the New York City Public Schools. At no point did either participant offer even the slightest sign of knowing what she was talking about.
Understanding the way the lizards will howl, we'll even suggest that this apparent ignorance might help explain this feel-good comment by Gay:
GAY (3/26/19): At the end of the day, what do we want our specialized high schools, or any of our high schools, to do?After launching her latest suggestion that those high-performing Asian-American kids are just a bunch of programmed droogs, Gay sang a song of her own moral greatness with the highlighted, feel-good remark.
Do we want them to find the kids who are best at taking this exam? Or do we want them to find the most enthusiastic, accomplished, passionate learners around the city?
I guess I'm somebody who believe that there are kids in every single classroom in this city who have high potential.
You know, these schools, like Stuyvesant—they should reflect the city at large.
As someone who spent a dozen years teaching in Baltimore's public schools, we'll suggest her remark is right and wrong. Let us explain what we mean:
For starters, of course! Of course Gotham's many classrooms all contain good, decent kids "who have high potential." In that blatantly obvious sense, Gay's vacuous comment is true.
That doesn't mean that every eighth-grade classroom in Gotham contains kids who qualify, by any rational assessment, for the high-powered curriculum which is presumably being taught at Stuyvesant High.
We'll guess there are many eighth-grade classrooms in Gotham which contain no such kids. We'd base that guess on these Naep data:
Average scores, Grade 8 mathWe've shown you those data many times. We'll guess that, as of March 26, Gay and Harris has never set their eyes on any such data. Nor would they have any idea how to assess the size of the "achievement gaps" those data record.
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
In fairness, you can't blame Harris and Gay for not knowing their ascots from their elbow patches when it comes to matters like these. Matters like these are never reported or discussed in the New York Times, an upper-class newspaper which has no education specialist on its editorial board—a newspaper which has produced comically awful public school reporting down through the many long years.
Simply put, the New York Times shows no sign of caring about the good, decent kids who produced that dauntingly low average score for Gotham's black kids on the Grade 8 Naep math test.
To appearances, the Times cares about the relative handful of black kids in Gotham who, based upon rational assessments, could handle the curriculum st Stuyvesant High and might therefore end up at Yale, the only place that counts.
To the kinds of people who peddle the porridge served at the hapless New York Times, these seem to be the only black kids in Gotham who actually matter. This helps explain one of Gay's most clueless remarks during her chat with Harris.
The remark comes late in the groaning discussion—a discussion which focused on the interests of black kids-at-the-top-of-the-heap throughout.
In a typical comment, Harris despairingly said that Eric Adams, Brooklyn's (black) borough president, has rejected Mayor de Blasio's plan for the city's "specialized high schools" because of financial contributions from the Asian-American community.
Once again, listeners were told about the devious conduct of Those People, the Asians, who are using money and test prep to steal seats at Stuyvesant away from more deserving black kids. In a remarkably clueless moment, Gay offered this reply:
GAY (3/26/19): I think that it's a combination of not wanting to anger Asian communities, who have been quite united on this issue. But there's also the issue that, within the black community specifically, there's not a single line of thinking about integration. And a lot of people are focused on bettering, so to speak, all the schools, or maybe integration isn't a priority for them. I feel very strongly about integration, but not everyone does.Next to "clueless" in the dictionary, that clueless remark should appear. Consider the unintentional comedy lodged in that remark:
As usual, Gay praises her own moral greatness by framing this discussion as a matter of "integration." Along the way, she says that "a lot of people within the black community" don't care about integration all that much.
Instead, those people care about this—and yes, she actually said it:
"A lot of people are focused on bettering, so to speak, all the schools."Imagine that! Instead of focusing on the talented two percent who might end up going to Yale, a lot of people in the black community "are focused on bettering, so to speak, all the schools" in New York!
How strange! They're focused on addressing the lives and the interests of the vast majority of Gotham's black kids, the kids who won't be going to Yale.
Presumably, those people are focused on the K-8 schools from which those brutal Naep data emerge, data in which the average black kid is more than three years behind his or her white counterpart. perhaps as much as five years behind the average Asian-American.
Harris and Gay don't seem to care about those kids. Their bleeding hearts bleed for the very top kids, the ones who might get into Yale.
Along the way, Gay seems to suggest that there are top kids in every classroom in Gotham. Remarks like these have pleased pseudo-liberals for at least the past fifty years. But if we're talking about academic achievement, Gay's notion, however good it may feel, is almost surely wrong.
When we read feel-good comments like those, we tend to think back to some of the kids we taught in Baltimore's public schools. In particular, we think of NAME WITHHELD 1 and the late NAME WITHHELD 2, a pair of girls we taught in Grade 5 and Grade 6.
Even after all these years, those girls stick in our mind as two of the finest people we have ever known. NAME WITHHELD 2 died at the age of 50, after a long illness, and after a lifetime of service to others as a Baltimore health care worker.
When they were children in grades 5 and 6, those girls did indeed show "high potential." They showed high potential to be among the very best people found anywhere in the world.
That said, they, like most people of every "race," weren't on track to tackle the high-powered curriculum at an "elite" high school like Stuyvesant. Neither was anyone else in the class.
Today, their counterparts in New York City seem to be years behind their white and Asian-American peers. It isn't clear that Harris and Gay know this or care to discuss it. We pseudos have been ducking this topic since the dawn of time.
Tomorrow, we're going to show you the plan Gay endorsed in the course of this conversation. For today, we'll marvel at the cluelessness of her remarks to Harris, given how bright and free-thinking she was as an undergraduate journalist at the University of Michigan (class of 2008).
How did such a bright young person end up peddling upper-class pap for the Times? Cummings may have explained it long ago:
Humanity i love youIn Cummings' day, the Old Howard was Boston's best-known vaudeville house. Noting the way his fellow citizens were inclined to "black the boots of success," Cummings further observed the way they would "unflinchingly applaud all songs containing the words country home and mother."
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Today, the upper-class liberal applauds all songs containing the words "desegregation" and "test prep." Such people may not understand why many in the black community would rather focus on "bettering, so to speak, all the schools."
Gay spoke well of de Blasio's plan, saying the New York Times has endorsed it. In our view, it's a terrible plan.
Tomorrow, we'll discuss how the plan works. It's a plan with major winners and losers. You may be able to guess who gets shown the door as the mayor insists on booting The Others instead of just adding more seats.
Tomorrow: Ways to show children the door